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So parched — How 'LEMONADE' quenched the thirst

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This past Thursday was a lot. We found out that morning that Prince had died. It was already a tense time. Everyone I came in contact with was dealing with various personal issues, and when the Purple One departed, it was like a collective sigh of “what next?” We were looking for something positive to bond over rather than just our group commiserating over our beloved Prince. And Saturday night we got it. On April 16, HBO showed a 30-second teaser for Beyoncé’s LEMONADE, set to premiere on the 23rd. As per usual, there was very little info, just Beyoncé leaning on what appeared to be a car, wearing a fur and rocking long cornrows. Sidenote: Fans have been watching and waiting for an album from the megastar since she broke the internet on Feb. 6 with the single “Formation.” That single wasn’t the usual Beyoncé – she was raw, bold, and to the shock of many, she was unapologetically black. The day after she performed the single at the Super Bowl, she announced her world tour. Since then, we’d been waiting for the Beyoncé fix. By this past Saturday, after the week I’d just had, I wasn’t just ready. I needed it. As I sat on my sofa awaiting the broadcast to begin, I felt the anxiety rising.

I began to chat with members of the Beyhive on Twitter.

The good thing about being anxious for any Beyoncé situation is that there is a legion of others simultaneously sharing the experience. When 6 p.m. PST (finally) came, LEMONADE began with gripping shots and very wide POVs. It was clear to me from the onset that we were about to get some more unapologetically-black Bey. The imagery was matched with emotions that occur when there is a break in trust in a relationship. Masterful storytellers, Beyoncé and her team spun the tale of a woman who catches her man cheating, then the road their union must travel to get back on track. The visuals brought in the glorious beauty of our past, the chilling reality of today and the future of the Beyoncé sound. While the Twitterverse is still reeling, trying to decipher what was true in Beyoncé’s real-life relationship, I’m left reeling with the realities of the relationship patterns that LEMONADE highlights. Although I don’t think LEMONADE is only for black women, I do feel it speaks to some of our collective experiences.

EMOTIONAL WARFARE

Intuition. Denial. Anger. Apathy. Emptiness. Loss. Accountability. Reformation. Forgiveness. Resurrection. Hope. Redemption. Isn’t that how it always goes? You feel it before you know, then you deny it – you tell yourself you don’t know for sure, there’s no way to confirm a feeling and that you’re probably just tripping. When you find out its true and real, you get mad and pop off. Then anger quickly switches to giving no fucks, which leads to feeling empty and alone. At some point, we pull ourselves together and take responsibility for our part in what happened. We figure a new way to be and we forgive all those involved in what took place. A new day appears and it’s filled with hope and we are redeemed. Then the cycle happens again and shows up in relationships, work and jobs, and even something that seems simple like growing out our hair. I think these feelings and emotions are heightened for the black woman. Beyoncé even quotes the great Brother Malcolm to push her point home.
“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman."
That speech was from 1962, but today I feel equally neglected, unprotected and constantly disrespected. I do not feel alone in this, as I see it unfold online and in the news every day. They shoot our children, they blame us for the breakdowns in the family and they pay us less to do the same if not more work than our male, white counterparts. They’ve even begun to kill us and then turn on us in death, accusing us of suicide. They call us angry and discredit our views when we speak out about anything we really feel. And to add insult to injury, they constantly take our style while insinuating we aren’t as beautiful as women of other races. Shit gets disgusting, but what we gon' do? The same thing black women have always done, overcome and survive. Somehow, we as black women keep on pushing.

WHO DO YOU LOVE

LEMONADE brought up some of the parallels between the men we date or marry in relationship to our father figures. There seems to be a pattern where women tend to date and marry men that are like their fathers or the men they grew up around. Although I think that’s true for men too, today’s topic is women so I’ll save that analysis for another day. How many ladies grew up in an abusive home then went on to marry an abuser? Or a woman who grew up in a household with a gambling dad might attract a man who spends a lot of time at the casino or squanders their earnings on games of chance. And for women like me who grew up without a strong father, I tend to attract guys who are unavailable and closed off from entering a true relationship with me. Just like my daddy. What is it? Are we seeking something we didn’t get growing up or is it more of an attraction to our wounds? In Beyonée’s personal life, since her relationship began with her husband and mogul Jay Z, there have been many comparisons with her father and former manager, Matthew Knowles. I always felt those were backhanded comments used to suggest she couldn’t handle her own business affairs so she went from one man controlling her life to another. In retrospect, I think it’s clear that Beyoncé is just fine minding her business affairs. I do think it’s valid to say she was attracted to her husband’s qualities that were similar to her father. Another trend that occurs is that women compare their mates to their fathers. It makes it difficult to decipher which man we are upset about sometimes. “Am I talking about your husband or your daddy?” I am a huge proponent of strong father-daughter relationships and I feel LEMONADE offers a bit more insight into how that key foundational relationship will affect our future dealings with men.

NOT TO BE PLAYED WITH

Like many black women, Beyoncé might appear all sweet, quiet and uber feminine, but this exterior does not mean we are to be played with. One of my favorite songs from the album is “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Beyoncé channels Betty Wright, Millie Jackson or some other super powerful soul singer of days past. When she let out the initial “Who da fu*k?” I was immediately brought back to that question I’ve heard many times before from my grandmother. My Granny has never been one for the games men play. I’ve heard her screaming that question at an ex-boo as she beat the crap out of him with a long-handled stirring spoon. I’ve heard her ask it of a white boss who pushed her too far too many times. I’ve heard her ask myself and my cousins when we’d behaved badly and it was time to face her. My Granny would ask with such authority, anger and force that she would get the respect she desired in that moment. It wasn’t just the question; it was the emotion behind it. I felt it from her chest. As I watch the visual album again and again, I feel Beyoncé deliver that line with such authenticity it's hard not to wonder if she has had to remind Jigga, her dad, record execs or concert promoters, “who da fu*k?” from time to time. Considering I was home alone, I had to have this conversation with the woman in the mirror. I had to get serious and remind myself just “who da fu*k” I am. These conversations and images are vital to the black woman. As noted earlier, we are constantly disrespected, left unprotected and neglected. If we don’t stand up and ask that question from time to time, we will continue to be played. And we, as strong black women, did not come to play. Rather, we came to slay. (Yes, I just had to throw it in just one time.) LEMONADE was just what I needed.  Last week was so rough, mostly because I’m at a point in my life where I know I’m going to have to step up and go after what I truly desire or just settle for what is right now. On one hand, I’m so scared of the unknown. But on the other, I am so ready to throw my entire being out there into the world. I know I embody all the magic, beauty and sheer dynamic-ness that comes with embracing my black femininity. But with that blessing comes burden – it’s emotional, it’s taxing, it’s disappointing, but above all that, it’s sacred. It’s hard to remember the sacredness when all the messaging seems to tear down our worth. We live in a society where we literally have to scream that our lives matter. When those days come, when I feel like I’ve gone through the ringer, I’m grateful I’ll be able to tune into LEMONADE to be reminded to keep running.
"A winner don’t quit on themselves."

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